The reason I decided to embark on this journey was for revenge.
Break-ups are never pleasant, especially when you’ve grown accustomed to a way of life. Having traveled together for quite a number of times, one gets complacent knowing he/she has someone reliable next to them. Since I was single and I still wanted to travel, I had no choice but to suck it up and do it myself. As much as I want to dazzle you with an inspirational story of my solo adventure in a foreign land, such is not the case. Eat Pray Love this is not, or is it? No, the reason I decided to embark on this journey was for revenge.
When my ex and I were still together and we’d already embarked on several expeditions, he suggested that he wanted to go to Greece. This country was not exactly on my bucket list of places I wanted to go to, so I respectfully declined and we never talked about it ever again. Now that I’m single and feeling vindictive, Greece was my next destination. Asshole, right?
Whenever I watch movies like Under the Tuscan Sun where Diane Lane’s character is heartbroken and she goes on a trip to Italy to find herself, I find myself teeming with envy. If that happened here, the scenario would be; I get heartbroken, where do I go? Ok let’s go to Italy. Clearly, I can’t just pack my bags and leave. I have to apply for a visa, make sure I have my flight and accommodations confirmed, get my bank statements sorted out, get interviewed for the visa, and hopefully have it approved. So, it’s not exactly what you see in movies, it takes careful planning to be able to go to these film-worthy places--or you can just choose to go to a visa-free country for Philippine passport holders, such as Hong Kong, Thailand, or Cambodia.
I saw a bunch of good-looking guys at the airport, all that anxiety disappeared into thin air. Nothing like some eye candy to ease your stress away.
First time traveling solo is a daunting experience. Planning is always a fun process – researching, comparing notes, setting up an itinerary, ticket purchases, and reservations. The beginning stages of a trip typically is exciting but as it starts getting nearer, anxiety sets in. As I boarded my Etihad flight bound for Athens, that’s when it really hit me: “What did I get myself into?”
Since I was midair already, there was no turning back. I simply had to suck it up and deal with the consequences of my decision. However, as soon as I landed and I saw a bunch of good-looking guys at the airport, all that anxiety disappeared into thin air. Nothing like some eye candy to ease your stress away.
While Athens is not exactly architecturally beautiful where the Bauhaus design coupled with '60s and '70s structures dominate much of the cityscape unlike the iconic Haussmann-style of Paris’ buildings, it is rich in history where the city’s focal point is the magnificent Acropolis serving as the city’s beacon. This mélange of old-world structures with the modern is spread out throughout the metropolis.
Whenever I see people dining by themselves, I usually feel bad for them--and now here I am experiencing the same. I ask myself: “Are people pitying me because I’m a solo diner?”
Athens is certainly a walking city so I wasted no time in exploring it by foot. The location of my hotel is conveniently central to most landmarks which made walking accessible to all the different sites. Upon my arrival, they even recommended a restaurant nearby which served me an excellent grilled sea bream that went down nicely with a glass of ouzo. I only had a few days to spare to explore the city, so I wasted no time checking out the Parthenon, the Acropolis Museum, and the Ancient Agora.
At night, I had the privilege of watching Wagner’s opera Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) at the historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient Roman theatre situated right below the Acropolis complex. Since Wagner operas are notoriously long, comparable to Bollywood movies in terms of length, the show ended almost at midnight, and I was mortified at the prospect of walking back to the hotel in the middle of the night unaccompanied. I spotted a couple of ladies who were walking in the same direction as me so I tried to chat them up so at least I’d have company while walking back.
Dining out alone is another daunting experience. Whenever I see people dining by themselves, I usually feel bad for them--and now here I am experiencing the same. I ask myself: “Are people pitying me because I’m a solo diner?” At least this happened in the time of iPhones and other smart devices where I can browse through Facebook or Instagram. Had this happened during the time of Nokia, I’d most likely while away my time playing snake. Luckily, I brought my journal with me to help deal with eating in solitude. Funnily enough, the waiters thought I was a food critic so they paid extra attention to me engaging me in conversation and adding more portions to an already filling meal. I have used the same tactic ever since. Thank you, Spondi Athens, for a truly exceptional and memorable dining experience.
One thing I did not anticipate though here was the stairs--the sheer volume of it.
After my sojourn in Athens, I was soon headed for Meteora. En route, we passed by Delphi to marvel at the epic landscape of ruins amidst Mt. Parnassus. I booked via Spiros Taxi where my awesome driver and guide, Makis, showed me around this gorgeous central area in Greece. Delphi, famous for its high priestess at the temple of Apollo known as the Oracle, is a well-known site believed to be the center of the world by the ancient Greeks. We had lunch at To Patriko Mas--a nice restaurant by Delphi town with great food and views to match.
This country was not exactly on my bucket list of places I wanted to go to, so I respectfully declined and we never talked about it ever again. Now that I’m single and feeling vindictive, Greece was my next destination. Asshole, right?
We arrived at Meteora just in time for the fantastic sunset. After settling in at my hotel, I proceeded to take a stroll to check out the nearby area. To be surrounded by these otherworldly rock formations with history upon history of monasteries built on top of these columns of rocks is nothing short of surreal. Dinner was in a nice little tavern in the nearby town of Kalambaka. It was only a short trip to Meteora to marvel at this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next stop: Santorini. Pretty much every superlative you can think of encapsulates Santorini. Pictures don’t do this place justice, and it truly was the cherry on top of an amazing Greek Odyssey. It helps that the resort I stayed in was topnotch. Location was ideal as it was situated in Oia town. Being a solo traveler has its downside, and it was severely emphasized in Santorini-- being surrounded by honeymooners and couples on their anniversary was somewhat depressing. Having your journal with you has its limits and it was truly tested in this island. To make matters worse, the manager of the resort comes up to me and says that I’m their first solo guest, ever. Talk about making me feel special.
Pretty much every superlative you can think of encapsulates Santorini. Pictures don’t do this place justice, and it truly was the cherry on top of an amazing Greek Odyssey.
I did befriend the amazing staff there, including the manager. The bartender mentioned in passing a little story on how the staff had to be called back to work after the season has closed, because a VIP guest was staying and they had to reopen the hotel. Lo and behold, Beyonce was the prominent visitor to the resort. One thing I did not anticipate though here was the stairs--the sheer volume of it. Since I was alone, I thought I might as well dress like the star that I aspire to be. Yeah, by the afternoon of my first day on the island, I swapped my fashionable leather sandals for rubber flip-flops. To go up and down those stairs is no joke.
Since my feet were killing me, I mostly just stayed in Oia town checking out little shops, and having lunch and dinner. When you’re checked-in at a fabulous resort, there’s really not much reason for you to go out. I did have a wonderful dinner at Fanari Villas where the maître d' seated me at the owner’s private table, which had the most amazing sunset view. Santorini is famed for its sunset and I had box seats to the grand show. That happened in June 2013, and I still remember it to this very day.
...the staff had to be called back to work after the season has closed, because a VIP guest was staying and they had to reopen the hotel. Lo and behold, Beyonce was the prominent visitor to the resort.
It’s been almost 7 years since my first solo expedition to Greece, and it definitely was not the last. This trip has paved the way for several more solo adventures that I’ve grown to love. Some amazing, and some not so. Little by little, I gained confidence in seeing the world with fresh new eyes. It has also taught me a lot about the different cultures around the world, the variety of flavors, scents (some not so pleasant), and last but not least, made tons of friends. Yes, I’ve made heaps of mistakes along the way, but I’d rather view them as challenges and opportunities for learning. We grow, we learn, but more importantly we live and we love.
Traveling--it leaves you speechless then it turns you into a storyteller. -Ibn Battuta
Story of Carlo Aguinaldo